Enough already! My response to Marci McDonald

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The Article

It has been several weeks since the book The Armageddon Factor was released, igniting a storm of controversy that author Marci McDonald says she neither intended, nor anticipated. Perhaps so, but one gets the feeling that she’s not entirely unhappy with the attention. What really bothers her, she says, is the invective that has been directed her way since the book’s publication. And now she’s fighting back…and she’s using me to do so.

In a column published by the Ottawa Citizen June 9, McDonald tells how I greeted her with a “massive bear hug” prior to appearing on a CTV panel together. The implication is clear: Marci McDonald remains a good friend of one of the two (according to the Toronto Star) official “spinmeisters” of Canada’s conservative movement, and a Jew at that – Joseph Ben-Ami.

Except – the above episode never happened. When McDonald and I greeted one another before our joint appearance on CTV’s Power Play, all we did was touch cheeks gently, as standard a greeting between a man and a woman as shaking hands is between two men. That she would portray such a common and innocuous gesture as a “massive bear hug” illustrates a disturbing willingness to adjust facts to fit her personal narrative. This would be fine if she were Dan Brown (author of The Da Vinci Code) but she’s not. She’s supposed to be a serious journalist and her book, a serious work of journalism.

It’s not the first time McDonald has misrepresented our relationship when promoting her book. In an interview with Harris MaCleod of The Hill Times she stated that she and I “talked endlessly” until a couple of weeks before her book’s publication, when I suddenly cut off communication. In fact – other than exchanging pleasantries when running into one another at various events – I probably spoke with McDonald four or five times in the six years that I’ve known her. What’s more, all but one of these conversations were interviews that she requested, and the one that wasn’t took place sometime last winter when she called to say her book would soon be published, and that I could expect a call from her publisher to verify facts.

I never heard from her or her publisher again.

There’s more. In the course of our debate on CTV, McDonald accused the government of Stephen Harper of eliminating taxpayer funding of left-wing advocacy groups while giving money to conservative groups.

Now, as it happens, this is something that I and my colleagues at the Canadian Centre for Policy Studies monitor pretty closely, so I know who is getting money and who isn’t, and no conservative advocacy group is. When I challenged her to name one that was, McDonald dodged the question by changing the subject. And when I refused to let her of the hook, our moderator ended the debate, saying that we were “out of time”.

And then there was a recent column by Daphne Bramham of the Vancouver Sun that claims that I converted to Orthodox Judaism (whatever that means) and changed my name after divorcing my first wife. It’s beyond me why anyone would think that reporting details of my private life would be in the public interest, but to the degree that it is, the “facts” reported by Bramham are wrong from start to finish.

Bramham’s source? Marci McDonald.

In her Ottawa Citizen column, McDonald reminds us – with unbecoming triumph – that her critics were “only” able to find four factual errors in her entire book. Moreover, according to her, some of those critics didn’t even read the book.

Her first observation misses the point completely. The critics she identifies only chose to highlight the four errors in question because each were so egregious – and the truth so easily verifiable – that they fatally undermine the credibility of her whole work, which is intended to be interpretive (meaning she explains the implication of the “facts” she reports), rather than just documentary.

As for reading the book, I have to confess that I haven’t read it either, but even if I had, how could I possibly trust that the thousands of small “facts” she reports, most of which I could never hope to verify myself, are indeed true? Given the bizarre nature of her behaviour and statements after the book was published as they relate to me, I have to say that I can’t.

Besides, I’m still waiting to receive the copy she promised she would send me. No surprise there…but I digress.

The bottom line is this: Just because I prefer to be polite in my discourse, and civilized in my behaviour with Marci McDonald doesn’t mean that we’re good buddies. When it comes down to it, I’m squarely on the side of the critics.

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